I know people who have been healing their gut for years. And granted, some things do take years to heal: like extensive damage to the intestinal track. But if you are still having symptoms of leaky gut after 6 months of a diy gut healing diet, then you may need to enlist some professional help in getting the job done.
If you are having any of these symptoms even after months on a gut healing diet, then your gut may not be healing as it should.
- Chronic diarrhea, constipation, gas or bloating
- Nutritional deficiencies that may show up as poor nail, hair, skin or dental health ( or body dysfunction like hypothyroidism)
- Poor immune system- this can express itself as getting sick easily or even as autoimmune or chronic viruses, lyme disease or other infections.
- Headaches, brain fog, memory loss- these are signs you have leaky brain, which happens long after leaky gut syndrome.
- Excessive fatigue- this can be due to leaky brain or hormone imbalances caused by poor gut and liver health
- Skin rashes and problems such as acne, eczema or rosacea. These are dead giveaways that your gut health is compromised.
- Cravings for sugar or carbs- usually a sign of Candida, a fungus or yeast infection of the gastrointestinal tract that can get into the blood stream or other areas of the body.
- Arthritis or joint pain which is often caused by inflammation as a result of food sensitivities- which result from leaky gut syndrome.
- Depression, anxiety, ADD, ADHD. These can be caused by poor neurotransmitter production and/or leaky brain which causes inflammation and therefore dysfunction in the brain itself.
- Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, celiac disease or Crohn’s. Leaky gut syndrome is a root cause of all autoimmune disease.
Many times on a healing diet, people say they feel like they become even more sensitive to foods than before they removed them from their diet.
While i think most of that is not being aware of the sensitivities before elimination them, it can also happen that you continue to become sensitive to foods after you remove the worst offenders and before you heal your gut.
To put it simply, you lose more foods because your gut is still not healed.
In fact, if you have lost many foods or lost additional ones after an elimination diet, it is a sure sign that you have some extenuating circumstances and you are not healing as you should be. It may be simply because you have not healed your gut yet. But if it has been more than 6 months of a gut-healing diet and you are gut is still not healed (i.e. you are continuing to lose foods), then its time to dig deeper.
But why does a gut not heal when you are eating the things to heal and not eating what keeps you from healing?
There can be several reasons. (The following segment may contain affiilate links. For my full disclosure policy, please click here)
- you are slow to heal. some of us with compromised and stressed immune systems just heal slower. Add that to poor absorption of nutrients (because we have poor gut health) and it becomes a vicious cycle.
- you aren’t eating enough nutrient dense foods. A small appetite can prevent you from healing. While I never recommend force feeding, I do recommend eating a minimum of food, supplementing with low sugar juicing to fill in nutritional gaps. I also recommend having a professional assess why you have such a small appetite. There may be reasons such as imbalanced macro-nutrients or poor digestive juices.
- you are over-indulging in legal “cheats”. If you eat paleo treats with even good ingredients, it may be feeding the wrong bacteria. Just because you can have coconut flour pancakes doesn’t mean they are the best food for gut health.
- you have environmental toxins that are working against you. Things like mold and mycotoxins from a water damaged building are enough to open up a leaky gut and may prevent you from healing on your own.
- you have untreated gut infections. Infections like Parasites, H.Pylori, SIBO, Dysbiosis and Candida can prevent a leaky gut from healing. A stool test is a great way to detect if these infections are living in your gut. Your doctor may instead recommend a breath test or other type of testing to find an infection if he or she suspects it.
- you have a poor gastrointestinal environment. Low Hydrochloric acid creates an environment friendly to bad bacteria and unfriendly to the ‘good guys’.
- you are still eating foods that your body sees as a foreign invader. So if you have an unknown food allergy or are exposed to cross-contamination from the foods you are especially sensitive to- (this can happen if you are one of the 97% of the un-diagnosed Celiacs in this country or someone who carries the gene and has a heightened inflammatory response to these foods) then this exposure could be triggering antibodies that are attacking your gut or other organs and body parts. You don’t have to be Celiac for foods to cause an autoimmune response. Celiac is just when it attacks the villi in the small intestine. If it attacks the large intestine, it would be called something else. If it attacks the thyroid, then they call it autoimmune thyroiditis. If you carry one of the 6 genes associated with Celiac Disease, then following a protocol such as the CEP can be especially helpful in healing your gut.
- You only think you are eating to heal your gut. Sometimes I hear how people on a vegan diet are eating and they believe they are eating to heal their gut. But when we dig deeper into what they are eating, they are not soaking their legumes or grains or they are eating things like flours, thinking that because it is gluten free that it is gut-friendly. These clients also have a harder time healing from things like candida because of their need for a variety of grains in order to get proper nutrition. While some grains eaten in small amounts can be eaten while healing from starch-fed infections like Candida, some grains and even other high starch plant foods often feed these sugar-eating bugs and prevent the body from getting rid of it as easily. Also, while foods like aloe and chia seeds provide a gelatinous factor that helps to heal a leaky gut, it does not compare to the nutrients and collagen that are found in bone broth and collagen supplements. With no exacerbations like food sensitivities (to grains for examples), infections and assuming you are soaking your grains, nuts, seeds and legumes before consuming them- a vegan diet will still take longer to heal the gut simply because it lacks super foods like collagen and is lower in glutamine, a gut healing amino acid. Adding supplements in this simple situation (by simple I mean a case with no exacerbations) would help speed this process. While the CEP protocol is not suitable for vegans, I can recommend vegans to read The Wahl’s protocol by Dr. Terry Wahls. Like myself and many others in the healing world, Dr. Terry Wahls is a former vegetarian and her healing protocol has an introductory level that is suitable for vegans. I do, however, recommend soaking and sprouting all nuts, seeds, legumes and grains before consuming to help remove the toxins that would lead to leaky gut and poor nutrient absorption. After all, you are eating these foods daily. I would also recommend supplementation and gelatinous foods like aloe and chia seeds as a part of your daily diet.
In any of these case, seeking professional help and assistance in getting the job done may be necessary.
The first thing any practitioner worth his or her salts will do is assessments. Usually there is some type of lab performed but each provider has their own “minimum threshold of testing” that they will or will not perform. This is my way of saying that some do a basic stool test or equivalent for everyone and others only do so if they feel it is necessary. If you have any doubts about their approach, seek a second opinion. But they need some way to see what they are dealing with first, in order to help you. Some are just more diligent or loosey-goosey in their assessments.
Some of us who don’t heal as easily or have one of these roadblocks mentioned above will benefit from some additional pointers and supplements to help us complete our task of healing this leaky gut once and for all. With help, this may be finished in a few months, provided there are no major roadblocks that must be dealt with first. Having an infection such as H. Pylori or even Candida can slow this down and must be dealt with before you can heal your leaky gut. I also recommend looking at some of the reasons you got the Candida or other infections in the first place. If your diet is clean, then getting an infection may point to other factors that contributed to the infection: such as gastrointestinal environment.
If you are losing foods while you are waiting to heal your gut, then I highly recommend enlisting the help of someone who can identify what the pattern is: And yes, there is usually a pattern to the foods. As there are not a lot of people who know how to identify a pattern of food sensitivities, you can always contact me for a consult on your case here. By identifying the pattern, a professional can help you anticipate which foods will be most likely to be lost and prevent that from happening with a few dietary tweaks. They will also likely be able to tell you if these losses will be permanent or if you will get these foods back. They will need testing to know that. While most functional medicine doctors expect to have all foods come back or all foods be lost forever, this is not necessarily the case. It depends on the foods and your genomics. This is why you need a specialist who understands the specifics of how these things interact and which patterns indicate permanent loss and which are just leaky gut.
Regardless of the reason why you have not been able to heal DIY, having an objective and professional opinion can help you figure it out and come up with a plan for addressing it.
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